OPELOUSAS — Although his Catholic High-New Iberia team trailed by five points at halftime, Brent Indest told his players not to worry.
Despite the score, things were actually going their way, Indest said.
“We came in at halftime and we didn’t panic. They scored on a couple of haymakers and trick plays and we’re only down by five,” Indest said.
Instead the Panthers responded by limiting Opelousas Catholic to a three-and-out on the first second-half series and then launched a scoring drive of their own — 73 yards and 16 plays — to take the lead and eventually win a key District 5-2A contest 42-26 on Friday night at Donald Gardner Stadium.
The Catholic High touchdown initiated a 28-point second half in which the third-ranked Panthers scored on every possession and improved their overall record to 8-0 and 3-0 in district.
Opelousas Catholic (7-1, 2-1) gained just 35 rushing yards in the final two quarters. The sixth-ranked Vikings finished with 116 rushing yards and 144 passing.
Catholic running back Seth Pierre said Indest’s halftime message was simple and direct.
“Coach told us to come out in the second half and play our game. We needed to get more physical with (OC) and outhit the other team,” Pierre said.
The Panthers finished with game with 406 rushing yards after getting 256 by halftime.
Pierre carried 18 times for 133 yards. The Panthers’ Andre Bellefontaine had 188 on 22 attempts. Bellefontaine had 56 of that on a third-quarter touchdown run.
CHNI quarterback Jason Pellerin threw for only 59 yards, but he scored three of the Panthers’ second-half touchdowns.
OC coach Dane Charpentier said his offense had trouble blocking the Panthers’ defensive linemen.
“Our offense kind of let us down. We didn’t get enough first downs and we didn’t score enough points. (The Panthers) have some very good players up front and they are hard to block. I don’t think you will find a better group on the D-line than (the Panthers) got. Holes open and close quickly,” Charpentier said.
The Vikings led 19-14 at halftime after scoring on a first -quarter 29-yard halfback pass from tailback Caleb Vidrine to wide receiver Jacobi Richard with 1: 59 left.
That TD followed an early CHNI goal line stand in which the Vikings failed to score on three plays from the 1-yard line. The short 20-yard drive was set up with a Caleb Vidrine interception of a Pellerin pass on the game’s second play.
Catholic High responded with its first long drive of the game — 67 yards and 14 plays — that ended with a 5-yard Pierre touchdown run with 7:47 left in the second period.
OC grabbed a 9-7 lead in the second quarter when the officials ruled a safety after deciding that Pellerin had grounded a pass intentionally while in the end zone.
The Vikings’ Aaron Whipp returned the kickoff to the CHNI 46 and OC scored a touchdown three plays later when Labbe threw a 35-yard pass to running back Aaron Miller (4:38).
CHNI cut that lead to two points (1:41) when a 63-yard possession that ended with a nine-yard Bellefontaine run. Pierre helped set up that TD with a 22-yard run.
Devin Bijeaux’s field goal with two seconds left gave OC the five-point lead.